The National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA) was first enacted in 1987 to set minimum energy efficiency standards for certain household appliances – refrigerators, freezers, room air conditioners, clothes washers, dishwashers, ovens, and water heaters. Since 1987, revisions were made in 1990 and 2004. On April 16th, 2015, new regulations under NAECA will go into effect that call for higher Energy Factor (EF) ratings for all residential water heaters including gas, oil, and electric tank type and tankless heaters.
The DOE website states that the EF is based on three factors: 1) the recovery efficiency, or how efficiently the heat from the energy source is transferred to the water; 2) stand-by losses, or the percentage of heat lost per hour from the stored water compared to the content of the water: and 3) cycling losses. Below is a chart showing the updated EF requirements.
What impact will these new regulations have? According to leading water heater manufacturers, here is a list of the major changes.
– All residential models under 55 gallons will increase by 2″ in height and width.
– All residential electric models over 55 gallons must be of a hybrid electric/heat pump design.
– All residential gas models over 55 gallons must of a condensing heater design.
– The size and weight of heaters will increase due to additional insulation and other design changes.
The new NAECA regulations will save energy in the long run, but at the cost of increased material and labor prices for homeowners and building owners. Lower operating costs over time will payback this premium. Distributors are allowed to continue selling existing inventory, but they will need to allot more space for the incoming NAECA 2015 compliant models. Although heat pump and condensing water heaters are available today, many contractors will need training to understand the installation and idiosyncrasies of these efficient designs. The video below from AO Smith explains these changes.